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Northwestern preparing for two Michigan quarterbacks

DevGardner led Michigan 35-13 victory against Minnesothis first college start quarterback. | Tom Olmscheid~AP

Devin Gardner led Michigan to a 35-13 victory against Minnesota in his first college start at quarterback. | Tom Olmscheid~AP

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Updated: December 8, 2012 6:35AM

Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson didn’t play last week against Minnesota after injuring the ulnar nerve in his right elbow, but Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald expects to see him Saturday, when the Wildcats visit Ann Arbor, Mich.

Still, NU also will have to prepare for backup Devin Gardner, who played well last week in his first college start at quarterback.

‘‘I think Devin stepped up so well and had a terrific second half,’’ Fitzgerald said of the junior quarterback/receiver. ‘‘Devin has come on as a weapon. They have playmakers across the board. It reminds us of when we played Nebraska: Everyone who touches the ball can score.’’

Michigan coach Brady Hoke said Gardner’s ‘‘skill level and intelligence are no surprise to us at all. He stepped in and did a nice job for us.’’

NU’s strengths

Hoke said the Wildcats are playing ‘‘physical football’’ and getting exceptional play from running back Venric Mark.

‘‘He’s a dynamic football player who can beat you a
lot of ways,’’ Hoke said. ‘‘He’s a threat every time he touches the ball.

‘‘I think there’s a lot to be said about their personnel and the mind-set they want to have as a team.’’

Taking a pass

NU ranks at the bottom of the Big Ten in passing at 144.4 yards per game. The Wolverines, meanwhile, lead the nation in pass defense at 145.4 yards per game.

The Wildcats, though, rank second in the conference in rushing offense, a sign of where their scoring strength lies.

‘‘I’d say we’ve established ourselves as a running team and have done well to win games with that,’’ receiver Christian Jones said. ‘‘We’ve taken on the mind-set of blocking and doing what it takes to win.’’

Jones said NU’s last-place ranking in the Big Ten in passing ‘‘is a little surprising, but it doesn’t bother me.’’

Storm stories

Fitzgerald and his staff used the Wildcats’ bye last week to hit the recruiting trail, although they had to put off their scheduled travel to the East Coast because of the devastation caused by Superstorm Sandy.

‘‘It definitely impacted our recruiting, but that was nothing compared to what those people have gone through,’’ Fitzgerald said.

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